J usticeAid believes in justice and the power of art to bring us together in the fight for a more equitable nation and world. This year, in parallel with our fundraising for Black Voters Matter, each month we will highlight Black artists in order to uplift those whose voices have been muted, and whose visions can help us all see ourselves as we really are, and as we could be.


Marvin Gaye

“The song starts as a party but becomes something else, something much closer to a prayer,” writes NPR’s Tom Moon. 

What’s Going On debuted in February 1971 to a rapturous response, selling two million copies within 18 months and later entering the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Written from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning home to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice, Gaye urges love and compassion to remedy the chaos of the early 70s. “The material is social commentary, but there’s nothing extreme in it,” said Gaye. “I did it not only to help humanity but to help me as well, and I think it has.”

The song of protest is as relevant today as it was at the time of its release over 50 years ago.


Selma chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.

“Selma” shows the evolution of change while beaming a spotlight on the stunted growth of that which has not changed. Its timeliness is a spine-chilling reminder that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.


Director Ava DuVernay’s tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.

2014 | Directed by Ana Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb, with David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, and Oprah Winfrey.


Celebrated artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) depicted the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches for voting rights in Confrontation at the Bridge. Strong colors and an expressive composition highlight the brave act of the marchers.

Media coverage conveyed the bravery shown by the protestors.  In this photograph, an Alabama state trooper swings a billy club at 24-year-old civil rights leader John Lewis, who sustained a fractured skull while leading some 600 protesters over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  The graphic televised images helped to inspire the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act just two months later.

About Jacob Lawrence: He began his art career during the Harlem Renaissance, in 1930s New York City. In 1941, he was the first African American artist to be represented in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. During World War II (1939-45), he was drafted into the United States Coast Guard and served in a segregated regiment as Coast Guard Artist. Major restrospectives of his work have been held at the Whitney and Seattle Art Museum.

(Artwork) Confrontation on the Bridge, 1975, serigraph print commission celebrating the U.S. bicentennial in 1976
(Photo) Copyright 2018, The Associated Press

Suppressed Speech

First edition (1963) publ. American Friends Service Committee

Letter From Birmingham City Jail
By Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On April 16, 1963, in the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned as a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in longhand Letter From Birmingham City Jail—his response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South.

The letter states that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. With the help of his lawyer, the letter was smuggled out of prison and widely published, becoming an important text for the civil rights movement.


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